DENVER | Gordon Hayward’s shots were falling with regularity, an encouraging sign his early season struggles were starting to fade.
Hayward scored 20 points, seven in the fourth quarter, and the Utah Jazz pulled away late to beat the Denver Nuggets 96-84 on Thursday night.
“It was good to kind of get out of it,” said Hayward, who was 7-of-13 from the field, including two 3-pointers. “Still not there at all with where I want to be but the rhythm is starting to get there.”
Hayward entered the game hitting 35.2 percent of his shots and was coming off a 7-for-20 effort in a 108-92 loss to Portland on Wednesday. But he found the range against a familiar foe, scoring 20 or more points against the Nuggets for the seventh time in his career.
“He’s the leader of the team, so to see him out there getting it going, he gets everybody else going,” Trevor Booker, who chipped in 13 points, said.
Rudy Gobert added eight points and 16 rebounds for Utah, which kept the Nuggets winless in their two home games this season. Alec Burks and Trey Burke had 12 points apiece.
Danilo Gallinari had 18 points to lead Denver while Will Barton added 12. Denver, outshot by Utah 43.5 percent to 38.9 percent, started strong but wilted in the second half.
“In our losses, we’ve had too many ups and downs,” Gallinari said. “We cannot allow ourselves to have too many ups and downs and have lapses in the game where we don’t have pace, we don’t play defense. We cannot do that. We’ve got to play for 48 minutes.”
Trailing by two points at halftime, Utah took a 65-64 lead into the fourth quarter and stretched it to 78-71 on Burke’s layup with 6:49 remaining.
Denver got a jumper from Jameer Nelson but Rodney Hood and Hayward hit successive 3-pointers as part of a 12-0 run carrying the Jazz to a 90-73 lead with 4:17 left. The Jazz maintained a double-digit lead the rest of the way.
Burks hit a 3-pointer to start an 11-2 run over the last 5 1-2 minutes of the second quarter, pulling the Jazz within 42-40 after trailing by as many as 13 points earlier in the game.
Jazz: Derrick Favors fought through flu-like symptoms to play but he was limited to just over 15 minutes and did not play in the second half. … Utah’s bench outscored Denver’s 52-34. … F Trey Lyles turned 20 on Thursday.
Nuggets: C Joffrey Lauvergne missed a second consecutive game because of a lower back strain. … Denver has shot less than 40 percent from the field in each of its three losses. … F Kostas Papanikolaou was signed to the roster earlier Thursday and G Erick Green was waived.
Jazz: Host Memphis on Saturday night.
Nuggets: Visit Golden State on Friday night.